New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: Trouble At Marange, Diamonds Run Out

Photo: Denford Magora
Marange Diamond Fields in Zimbabwe.

ALLUVIAL diamond deposits at Marange have run out and companies there have neither the expertise nor the resources to crush the hard rock deeper underground to search for new deposits, it has emerged.

According to a report in the State-run Herald newspaper, Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa was told the bad news last week after blasting companies licensed to operate in the area over poor revenues remitted to government.

Alluvial diamonds are mainly found on the surface but these have reportedly run out at Marange and mining companies want to be given new concessions to exploit instead of digging deeper which they claim is not commercially viable.

Mbada Diamonds chief operations officer, Tendai Kadyamusuma told the minister: "Currently, we are exploiting low grade material compared to when we started. We have deep-seated conglomerate making it difficult to extract."

Said Munyaradzi Machacha, a director with the Chinese-owned Anjin: "The challenge we are facing at the moment is that we are operating at below break-even point.

"Our ore is much deeper to depths of about 40 metres and some of the areas we have had to abandon mining because it was no longer commercially viable."

Anjin managing director, Ni Jun added: "From 2012, the mined alluvial ore is about 2,4 million tonnes and the remainder is about 1,28 million tonnes. The remaining alluvial deposits cannot last at this mine for a long time."

The government has a 50 interest in most of the Marange mining operations which include Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Jinan, Kusena and Gye Nyame.

Chidhakwa however, took Marange Resources to task over dividends remitted to the State.

"You are 100 percent owned by Government and the expectations on you are much bigger than the expectations on anybody else in which we have 50 percent shares," he said.

"There are specific expectations on Marange Resources. Ko tinombowana dividend here (do we ever get a dividend from you)?

"I meet so many Zimbabweans who say to me why are we not getting what is due to us from Marange Resources where we don't share with anyone else?"

Chidhakwa also hit out at what he described as the "fly-by-night" nature of operations at Marange.

"We were almost involved in an accident because of the poor state of your roads," he said.

"It only shows your fly-by night attitude. That 'we are just coming to take and don't care what we leave behind'. That is not the attitude I want to see from the mining sector.

"I have told everybody including those that are in the platinum sector. We want someone who can show us that if their reserve says they can stay here for 50 years, demonstrate that to us by giving us a 34-storey building in Harare or Mutare."

Former mines minister Obert Mpofu once boasted that Zimbabwe would never need to beg for international aid since the country would earn up to $2 billion per year from Marange which was said to have the capacity to meet up to 25 percent of the world's diamond demand.

But the potential has clearly not been realised with the government, hard pressed for cash, recently venting its frustration at declining revenues from the supposed gem riches.

Said Chidhakwa's deputy, Fred Moyo, last month: "We are worried that the diamond sector announces forecasts that they are unable to meet. It is clear that we are not producing efficiently. So, our board members whom we put in there should be liable.

"The production targets are not being met and there is the issue of capital, mine planning and geological matters. Some things are not being done right. There seems to be a tendency there to explore as they mine."

"We have therefore asked them to give us forecasts in line with Zim Asset. We expect to get concrete figures. We are expecting the figures by the end of the month and we hope that this time the figures will be sound and achievable.

"If there are challenges, whether to do with equipment or otherwise we want them to spell out clearly how we can address these."

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InFocus

Zimbabwe Diamond Deposits Running Out

Marange Diamond Fields in Zimbabwe.

The country's alluvial diamond deposits in the eastern highlands are reportedly running out and reports also suggest that companies mining in the area lack the technical expertise ... Read more »